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Friday, February 6, 2015, 10:35

India wooing Chinese travellers

By Chitralekha Basu

Below is the Q&A with Prashant Agrawal, Indian consul-general, Hong Kong.

India wooing Chinese travellers
Prashant Agrawal, Indian consul-general, Hong Kong

1. What does this perhaps the biggest festival of India in Hong Kong so far signify for Hong Kong residents — of Indian origin and the rest? If it is an event not-to-be-missed, why so?

I feel it is quite important to promote cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts to enhance our understanding of each other. India by the Bay, in a way, continues, in contemporary context, the dialogue between Chinese and Indian civilizations that has been going on since millennia. It also presents and interprets India's plural and composite culture in ways that would resonate with a global audience. While Hong Kong is no stranger to Indian cultural performances, it is for the first time that a festival of such dimensions and diverse palette is being held. We are sure not just the Indians but Hongkongers and expats will enjoy and appreciate it as much.

2. It must be a special feeling that the festival is happening during your tenure. Would you like to share a bit about your role in this event and the way you feel about it, now that the countdown has begun?

As I mentioned, for us at the Consulate, building awareness of our shared cultural heritage has been a priority. We basically act as a catalyst in facilitating topnotch partners and institutions such as Teamwork and Asia Society Hong Kong to work together. We also got the valuable support of a large number of partners. That we all were able to put the festival together in a relatively short time is testimony to the level of interest and excitement it has created. This enthusiastic response gives us hope for the festival to become an annual feature here.

3. This happens to be China’s Visit India year. What’s the idea behind encouraging more Chinese to visit India?

It was agreed between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi during the former’s visit to India that 2015 will be observed as Visit India Year in China and likewise 2016 will be Visit China Year for Indians. The idea behind promoting tourism is to improve our mutual understanding of each other and also experience our shared civilizational heritage through bonds such as Buddhism that are thousands of years old.

4. Is there anything people of China particularly stand to gain from this experience? Do they have an edge over tourists from other cultures?

As I mentioned, greater tourism exchanges built up on our understanding of each other act as support and catalyst for what the governments and the leaders are trying to do, which is to deepen our engagement. As part of the Visit India Year, special initiatives and measures are being taken to welcome Chinese travellers in India. These include customized tour circuits, tourism promotion campaign in various Chinese cities and offering facilities such as Chinese-speaking guides at tourism sites.

5. Any highlights of the Visit India campaign you would like to share… if there are special focus areas…

We would be launching several major road shows for tour operators, travel agents and airlines to make them and the people in Hong Kong aware of unique destinations such as forts and palaces in Rajasthan, beaches and churches in Goa, Ayurveda, Yoga and well-being in Kerala. These would also include cultural events, food festivals etc. that will involve tourism boards of the various states in India.

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